Regardless of what happened at the judicial commission; one thing is clear, that the credibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been damaged. It is the right time that government should take steps to reform the ECP and introduce electoral reforms.
However, the civil society has to play a fundamental role in the process, as the country will gain politically and economically, only if, democratic institutions become stronger. On the other hand, the importance of regional trade has become more visible. After the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Irans nuclear deal; Pakistan should takes steps to increase its regional trade.
Last week the Jinnah Institute hosted a two-part debate in Islamabad on "Pakistan: Democratic and Economic Challenges post-2015". The first part of the debate dealt with tackling electoral reforms and democratic buy-in. The second part of the discussion addressed the issues of the inclusive economic growth and regional trade.
Senator Sherry Rehman, the president of Jinnah Institute, argued that democracy has taken roots, gradually, in Pakistan. In her opinion, 2013 has been the year of "culling the political process" and the civil society has to do their part to take advantage of these gains. She also pointed out that accountability should be the key to this whole process.
It is rather unfortunate that the media and political pundits only focused on the loss of PTIs planned rigging allegations. They ignored the fact that the judicial commissions report also highlighted the fact that the countrys electoral system has damaged, and it should get reforms and become more transparent.
Eminent columnist Zahid Hussain opined that "a system cannot work if it is not accountable." In his view, the rigging happened after the voting process ends. He rightfully asked for a new census in the country. However, his wish that political parties should lead the way by showing transparency and accountability, within their ranks appears to be a farfetched idea, for now.
Zafarullah Khan, head of Centre for Civic Education noted that the 18th Amendment was the first step towards the democratization of the ECP. But, the country should take the next step; reforms of electoral system. In his opinion, Pakistan is suffering an issue of low numbers of legislators. However, this statement is questionable because the fact of the matter is what Pakistan needs is to strengthen its local government system and true devolution of power.
Dr. Ashfaque Hassan Khan pointed out while discussing the importance of regional trade in the second session that India and Pakistan together account for 90 percent of the GDP of SAARC. But, this economic bloc can only be successful if India and Pakistan start co-operating. He acknowledged the fact that the future of SARRC is in doubt if India and Pakistan don collaborate with each other.
He suggested that SAARC should invite China to become a full member of the organization that would take the economic blocs trade volume from $20 billion to $100 billion. While giving an answer, he pointed out that it depends on Pakistan how much it can gain from the Pak-China corridor. He said the country has to bring its house in order, so that we have all right people sitting at right places, currently what Pakistan lacks is capacity in logistic and manpower.
He emphasized that Pak-China corridor will indeed create multiple jobs in the country and will bring benefits to the economy. He pointed out that the roads will also connect many cities in Pakistan, and industrial zones can be established in those areas. BR Research concurs with the debate participants that democratic reform and a regional focus in economic terms should be prioritized by the government without further delay.